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By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers
I recently heard about a new kink in the old agent-for-upfront-fee scam. I thought it authors were getting wise but this scam and similar ones are getting worse if only because of the new twists on old cons.
One of my longtime friends on Facebook told me that just as she had been waiting for the “right time to terminate” her relationship with her agent, she received a mass e-mail informing her of the agent’s new fee-for-service plan. My friend then canceled her contract (the terms of the contract had already expired) and asked that the mention of her books be removed from this former agent’s website. The agent refused her request (and other authors' requests) citing that she was the “agent of record” for those books.
My friend says, “I feel bad for new writers who fall for this trap of paying her upfront fees.” This agent also added another wrinkle to her fee collecting program—a cancellation-of-contract fee. That meant those who objected to her new fee would have to pay her a fee for leaving. Talk about a lose-lose proposition.
I am not an attorney and don’t advise about the legality of the notion that keeping a book that is no longer represented by an agent on an agent’s site is legal, but it certainly is misleading if not downright unethical. One of the tools that authors use to judge the effectiveness of an agent is their catalogue of book sales. It is important that you are all aware of this practice and double check with some of the authors who have been (or are) represented by any agent you are considering.
You should also be aware that some agents “sell books” to presses that would take any book presented to them, often called (rather erroneously) self-publishing presses and were once called “vanity publishing” or “vanity presses” and still are by anyone who cares to flaunt their #bookbigotry. Of course, these agents usually still take their 15% for “handling” and “representing” or “selling” the book to that press, even though you could have submitted your own book and been accepted with 0% chance of being rejected.
You will also find more on finding reputable agents and editors in the third edition of The Frugal Book Promoter (Modern History Press), The Frugal Editor and the third in my HowToDoItFrugally Series for writers, How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career. The latter includes my plan for keeping old titles alive, and, yes, a few other scams only peripherally related to this agent scam.. There are all kinds of ways you can be misled—both intentionally and unintentionally by folks who just want to increase their income stream.
MORE ABOUT TODAY’S GUEST BLOGGERCarolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. The books in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers have won multiple awards. That series includes both the third edition of The Frugal Book Promoter and the second edition of The Frugal Editor. They have won awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, Dan Poynter’s Global Ebook Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically is still in its first edition.
Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts.
The author loves to travel. She has visited eighty-nine countries and has studied writing at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom; Herzen University in St. Petersburg, Russia; and Charles University, Prague. She admits to carrying a pen and journal wherever she goes. Her Web site is www.howtodoitfrugally.com